For years, the game known as Texas Hold’em was just one of many options for card players, but it had nowhere near the following of Seven-Card Stud. That all changed in 2003, when an online player named Chris Moneymaker qualified for the World Series of Poker Main Event via a satellite tournament and walked away with more than a million dollars. The following year, another Internet player named Greg Raymer did the same.
Online casinos and card rooms had already been growing in popularity thanks to the increased availability of the Internet, but these wins gave the impression that anyone with a few bucks and a dream could be a poker champion. As people flocked to these sites, they naturally wanted to learn the same game that had made Raymer and Moneymaker rich, and so Texas Holdem was catapulted into its current position as the most prevalent option at virtual poker rooms.
Without further ado, here’s our list of internet’s best Texas Holdem sites – in other words, these sites provide the best software, game selection, tournaments, promotions, loyalty programs and much more for Holdem players.
The Rules of Texas Hold’em
If you’re new to the game of Texas Hold’em, here’s a comprehensive look at how it works. Keep in mind that the online and land-based versions are usually the same, so you should be in good shape no matter where you play.
The game is traditionally played with six to ten participants situated around a standard poker table. One player acts as the dealer each turn, although that individual still participates in the hand. Their temporary role is designated with the dealer button, which can take the form of a variety of handy objects. After each hand, the dealer button (and therefore the responsibility) rotates clockwise.
Antes from all players are sometimes used, but the more common rule is to require a big blind and small blind to be added to the pot each hand. The player to the immediate left of the dealer is required to pay the small blind, and its sum is equal to half the big blind. The player responsible for the big blind sits to the left of the small blind player, and their amount is equal to a table minimum that’s determined in advance. As a tournament progresses, it’s common for the blinds to increase in size.
While the blinds are being paid, the dealer shuffles the cards. The deck consists of 52 cards without the jokers. Once these matters have been resolved, the dealer gives each player two face-down cards, starting with the player to his left (the small blind). These are known as a player’s pocket or hole cards.
Once players have looked at their cards, a round of betting follows. This starts with the player to the left of the big blind and continues clockwise. If blinds aren’t being used, then the player to the left of the dealer begins the betting. The following options are available during this and all other betting phases:
- Check – If no new bets have been made in the round, the player essentially wagers nothing and passes to the next person at the table. In the initial phase of a betting round, a player cannot check if blinds are being used. They can, however, check on subsequent passes around the table.
- Opening Bet – When a player is the first to wager money during a round of betting. In the pre-flop betting round, the amount contributed by the big blind is considered live.
- Raise – When the player matches the current bet and then increases the size of the pot.
- Re-Raise – When a player raises again after another raise has been made in the round.
- Call – When the player matches a bet or raise but doesn’t increase the amount.
- Fold – A player forfeits their hand, as well as any money they’ve contributed to the pot.
- All-In – A player goes all-in by wagering the entirety of their chip stack.
Once the pre-flop betting round has concluded, the dealer puts three face-up community cards in the center of the table. This is known as the “flop,” and any or all of these cards may be used to build the player’s final hand.
Another round of betting occurs, with the player to the dealer’s left going first. Another community card is then dealt, and this is known as “fourth street” or “the turn.” This is followed by another round of betting, then another community card called “fifth street” or “the river.” Prior to the flop, turn, and river, the dealer burns the top card in the deck before dealing another community card.
One final betting round takes place. If the number of players is reduced to one at any point, then that individual is rewarded the pot. If two or more participants remain after the last round of betting, then the game moves to the showdown phase.
During the showdown, all remaining players attempt to make the best five-card poker hand by using a combination of their hole cards and the community cards. The player with the strongest hand wins the pot, and kickers are used to resolve possible ties. If two or more players are still tied by the end of the game, they divide the pot evenly.
In order to determine the strength of the hand, please refer to the following list (written in descending order):
- Royal Flush
- Straight Flush
- Four of a Kind
- Full House
- Three of a Kind
- Two Pair
- One Pair
- High Card
Types of Hold ‘em
No matter which of the best Texas Holdem websites you play at, you’ll find Texas Hold ‘em offered in one of the following three forms. These are easily the most popular, and I see nothing to indicate that they won’t remain so for the foreseeable future.
- Limit Hold ‘em – The amount of a wager is predetermined by the rules of the game. The player only decides whether or not to bet.
- No Limit Hold ‘em – The player can wager any amount they like, from a single chip to their entire stack. This is the format used during the World Series of Poker Main Event.
- Pot Limit Hold ‘em – No player may make a raise larger than the total pot. This includes chip action from earlier in the betting round, as well as chips collected during previous betting rounds.
Differences between Live and Online Hold ‘em
The biggest difference between playing at Texas Holdem poker sites and at a real table is the lack of human interaction. This can be a negative for some, while other players find it preferable.
Some players thrive on reading their opponents, and this is hard to do if you can’t even see the individual. Webcam games are growing in popularity for this reason, but it’s still a poor substitute for the real thing.
Online Texas Hold’em sites offer the ability for players to keep notes on their opponents, and some find this method more useful than being in the same room with them. These notes can be as detailed as the author wants, including playing habits, personal quirks, and anything else of relevance.
If you have a physical tell or find yourself rattled by chatty opponents, playing Hold’em online is a great way to cover up your weaknesses. You can turn off the chat feature, crank up your favorite music, and simply lose yourself in the challenge of the game.
There are other slight differences to be sure, but the principles of online and live versions of the game are almost identical. This accounts for why a large number of professionals and amateurs have successfully made the transition from one form of the game to the other.